Teenage Olympian Lilly King became the face of clean competition on Monday night. The American swimmer won gold in the 100-meter breaststroke. After her victory, King says she felt “incredible, winning the gold and knowing I did it clean.” The words were aimed at her main rival, Russian Yulia Efimova, a swimmer who was recently served a doping suspension.
King also felt that anyone with a prior doping violation should not be able to compete. This includes her US teammate, sprinter Justin Gatlin.
Drugs are, yet again, a big topic of the Olympics. But they’ve always been a part of athletics. Performance enhancing drugs go back at least a century. “It really started with the formation of professional sports,” says Mark Johnson, author of Spitting in the Soup: Inside the Dirty Game of Doping in Sports.
Johnson says once there were paying customers to watch competitions, athletes soon added doping to their craft to push sports to new heights. And no one really cared. “It really wasn’t frowned upon or stigmatized for roughly the first 100 years of professional organized sports,” he says.